Tonight, in celebration of חג הפסח, we will recount the story of גאולת מצרים. Behind the lines of the הגדה is a parallel between the שעבוד מצרים to our current גלות. When we begin the “מתחיל בגנות” aspect of מגיד, we will read “עבדים היינו,” but the truth is that we are still slaves, we are still exiled. “מה נשתנה הלילה הזה מכל הלילות”- every other night, we are exiled, so why should tonight, חג הגאולה, be any different? In some places, the pleas are less subtle: “השתא הכא לשנה הבאה בארעא דישראל”- this year, we are here but next year, we will iy’H be in Eretz Yisrael. The pattern that emerges is that חג הגאולה is a bittersweet day in the Jewish calendar- it, like many of our other holidays, is a celebration of the past, mourning of our present, and hoping for the future. In other words, our Pesach celebration, though heavily centered around the Exodus, is also a lament of our current exile predicament- we cry out that even though our forebears were freed, we are still enslaved and lost.
However, for the past 66 years, the Jewish People have been in a unique position. We’ve been given the ability to become בני חורין, to permanently right a wrong that started in Egypt and has continued for thousands of years. Every year since the institution of the הגדה של פסח, we’ve read “השתא הכא לשנה הבא בארעא דישראל,” but since 1948, “לשנה הבא בירושלים has become much more realistic than a desperate prayer. הקדוש ברוך הוא has given us the opportunity to free ourselves, to make this year the “שנה הבא בני חורין.” We can end the cycle of misfortune which, according to a deep interpretation, is signified by the last song of our seder, חד גדיא.
All we need to do is take ourselves out of the סדר and stop seeing ourselves as hopelessly lost, because the only enslavement facing the Jewish People of 5774 is self-perpetuated. As long as we expect to be slaves, we will remain that way, missing out on obvious opportunities to free ourselves in the process. Yes, we are waiting for משיח, but if our biggest השתדלות is opening up the door for אליהו נביא, then we will never merit for him to be waiting there. Or, as we read in last week’s haftarah, we must we must first “שובו אלי” before we will merit G-d’s “ואשובה אליכם.” In order to merit our final and permanent freedom with the coming of the ge’ulah, we must try to free ourselves, and ensure that we will truly be “לשנה הבא בירושלים,” not just at a hotel for the חג, but even for long afterwards. Only through our concerted efforts to free ourselves can we ever merit for G-d to free us.
With Hashem’s help, we will merit to see and take advantage of the very real opportunities to free ourselves from our current enslavement, so that we can truly merit to bring the Korban Pesach “לשנה הבא בירושלים” this year.